School Food Service Sustains First Quarter Loss

First quarter Food Service earnings are below what was hoped for, School District Business Coordinator Peter Curro and Food Service Director Nancy Faucon told the School Board.
“In the first quarter we had a loss of just over $17,000,” Curro said. “Even though the total revenue was slightly higher than last year because we had a price increase, earnings were below what we hoped. Our expenditures were right on target.”

Curro said the number of meals served went down, anticipated because enrollment is down.
He also said the reduction was related to the menus the district is required by federal mandate to serve.
“We are now serving breakfast in the middle school and we made an adjustment to the lunch line in the Middle School – we broke the line in two, one for those students who want snacks only and a separate line for those who want a lunch,” Curro said.
Splitting the lines in two makes them each move more quickly, he said.
Faucon said five to seven kids a day get breakfast at the middle school. “It is growing as the days get colder and I think that kids are sleeping in longer in the mornings,” she said, adding that a large number of those taking breakfast are on free and reduced meals. “That is nice revenue for us to have.”
She said a couple hundred get breakfast at the high school.
Board member John Laferriere asked what was served for breakfast, and Faucon said they served egg sandwiches, egg burritos and sometimes pancakes and muffins.
Faucon added that at lunch, the number of free and reduced lunch participants has not gone up, but the numbers of free and reduced meals that they are serving has gone up significantly.
“So we’re seeing a larger number of students eating in that population,” Faucon said.
Curro noted that even though the menu has changed, the quality of the food has not. He said a survey had been sent out to seek ideas, and asked of students not using the program what would entice them to use it.
Curro said most answers were that food wanted by the students is not on the menu. Appearance is also an issue, as are quality, more variety and at the middle school, not enough time to eat.
“Variety is more the amount of space the kitchen has,” he said. “If anyone’s been to Salem’s kitchen/cafeteria, there’s an abundant amount of space. They’ve got more choices and salad bars than we’ll ever have.”
Curro said that as a result of the survey, they are analyzing the idea of keeping the kitchen open immediately after school is out at the high school to give students in after-school programs like band, drama and sports an opportunity to snack. They are also reviewing how to better utilize the supply room at the high school and convert it to a salad and snack bar.
“That room doesn’t get a whole lot of use and we’re trying to think of a way to come up with a solution in January as a pilot to see if the idea of providing a snacks and salad bar area for the students will work,” Curro said.
Laferriere asked if the after-school program would mean an increase in staff and Curro said it would mean a four-hour staffer would work four and a half hours but no additional staff would be hired.
Board member Leitha Reilly asked if a salad from the salad bar constitutes a meal, and Faucon said it does not – it is considered a vegetable. Adding the proper amount of protein would make it a meal.
Curro then turned to meal prices, which are $1.85; the federal rate is $2.65.
“We all know the formula is that we have to raise our prices to meet the federal requirement, however there have been changes and one of them is that if we are financially stable, then we don’t have to meet the requirement,” Curro said.
However, he noted the program is not financially stable and won’t be for a couple of more years.
Board member John Robinson asked if Curro was saying that the question of federal compliance is more or less no longer a factor for the program.
“No, what I’m saying is that the benchmark for the program to be financially stable is to have a fund balance of about $44,000,” he said. “So my argument would be if we were to sustain two years of $44,000 fund balance or more, we would be financially stable. Therefore, even though we may be at the $2.65 average, the feds are now saying that if you are financially stable you don’t need to raise your prices to the mandatory rate, otherwise you have to.”
“Wouldn’t we be raising the price to be financially stable anyway?” Robinson asked.
Curro agreed, but said the program could be at a hypothetical average of $2.20 and be financially stable, thus the district wouldn’t have to raise the price.
Robinson clarified that the program was raising prices to meet the district’s needed amount to be financially stable, and Curro agreed. saying it would take two to three more years.
Londonderry is still near the bottom for lunch prices compared to other Class L schools.
Curro told the board the kitchen areas at both the high school and middle school need to be expanded to allow for more flexibility in menu items.
“At some point when enrollment comes back, some future board is going to have to address the idea of the kitchen (expansion),” Curro said.
“Are we on target to be in the red or black this year?” board chairman Nancy Hendricks asked. “Last year we were in the black and then it plummeted and we ended up in the red at the end of the year. If you could predict, what would you predict we will be at? Are we on target to finish up in the red or the black or break even?”
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Curro said.